SCARSDALE, NY – JUNE 10: The United States team and Captain Virginia Derby Grimes celebrate with the Curtis Cup trophy after their 17-3 win over the Great Britain and Ireland team on day three of the 2018 Curtis Cup Match at Quaker Ridge Golf Club on June 10, 2018, in Scarsdale, New York. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
By Brittany Romano
Going into the Sunday singles’ session of the 40th Curtis Cup with a seemingly insurmountable six-point lead didn’t dampen the competitive spirit of the United States squad at Quaker Ridge Golf Club. The Americans only needed 1½ points to win back the cup lost in 2016 but left with all eight to claim a historic 17-3 runaway victory.
The 17 points earned by captain Virginia Derby Grimes’ team is the most in Curtis Cup history since the biennial match against Great Britain & Ireland was extended to three days in 2008. The previous best from the U.S. of 13 came in 2008 and 2010.
The outcome of the three-day affair at the venerable A.W. Tillinghast layout outside New York City wasn’t unexpected but remained impressive, the U.S. improving its overall record in the match to 29-8-3. Every player on the U.S. roster was ranked inside top 22 on the Women’s World Amateur Rankings, compared to just one on GB&I captain Elaine Farquharson-Black’s squad, making the U.S. the clear favourite to win, particularly when playing at home.
With an average age of 20, the Americans acclimated well to team play in foursomes and four-balls before shining in singles. Despite a slow start on Friday morning—two matches were halved and the U.S. won the third—the home side ended the day with a 4-2 lead. If this was their day to struggle, the GB&I team was in for a long weekend.
Sadly, that was the case. On Saturday, the U.S. swept the three-morning four-ball matches and then went 2-1 in the afternoon foursomes to take a comfortable 9-3 lead that essentially decided the final outcome before Sunday even arrived.
Still, the U.S. dominated singles play, each woman competing as if the overall outcome hinged on the result of their individual match.
“We knew the other team was going to play aggressive because they had to, and that’s good and bad for them,” Sophia Schubert, the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, said of the GB&I. “We as a team talked about, yeah we only need a point and a half, but we don’t want to give them any points really. If we can win it all, we want to.”
Schubert earned the first point for the U.S., playing out of the leadoff spot traditionally given the defending Amateur champion. The University of Texas standout made it count going, 2 and 1, against Curtis Cup veteran Olivia Mehaffey, the GB&I’s highest ranked player at No. 16.
“I was ready to come out here and play their best player and just show them what I can do,” Schubert, 22, said. “It was nerve-wracking being the first one off, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Kristen Gillman ultimately clinched the winning point for the U.S. with her 5-and-4 victory over Annabell Fuller, and in the process made Curtis Cup history of her own. The University of Alabama All-American became just the second American and third player overall to go 5-0 in a single Curtis Cup, a result made possible with the format change in 2008. Gillman joined Stacy Lewis (2008) and Bronte Law (2016) in achieving the feat.
“She is very gritty,” Derby Grimes said of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. “It’s good to see, she’s going to fight until the bitter end.”
With the remaining matches left to play out, college stars Lilia Vu, Jennifer Kupcho, Andrea Lee and Lauren Stephenson and 15-year-old Lucy Li all won their individual matches. The lone excitement then came in the final match of the day, as U.S. Curtis Cup veteran Mariel Galdiano tried to close out the sweep.
However, when she hit her tee shot left into the trees en route to a bogey the 17th hole, it allowed Paula Grant to cut the lead to 1-up going into the final hole. Galdiano’s tee shot went wide again on 18, leaving the 19-year-old behind a tree with her second shot. But Grant struggled on the hole too, missing a 12-foot par putt that gave Galdiano the 1-up victory to let the U.S. sweep the singles session for the first time since 1990.
For the visitors, Mehaffey and Sophia Lamb proved the lone bright spot as they combined for 2½ of the team’s three-point finish. They were only the second pairing in Curtis Cup history to compete in all four sessions together. Stephanie Meadow and Georgia Hall did the same in 2014.
Given the lopsided finish, the question many were asking prior to the start of the match seemed moot: Would the notable absence on the GB&I side of Leona Maguire cost the team a chance at victory?
Maguire, a three-time Curtis Cup team member from Ireland who just closed out an impressive college golf career at Duke, decided to turn pro rather than wait and play in one final team competition. On Friday, Maguire was making her professional debut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, where she finished T-15. Had she been at Quaker Ridge, it likely wouldn’t have been enough to stop the Americans.
Indeed, this dominating Curtis Cup win is part of a trend for American golfers in international team events recently, including a 12-point win at the Walker cup, eight-point win at the Presidents Cup, six-point win at the Ryder Cup and 5-point win at the Solheim Cup. This 14-point win is the most lopsided of U.S. team wins in the last year.
It’s a short celebration for a few players on the team as Americans Lee and Galdiano are in the midst of college finals. Lee has two finals due Monday and an exam Tuesday morning at Stanford while Galdiano has a paper due Monday and two more finals next week at UCLA. Galdiano had an exam proctored onsite Thursday, just before the flag raising ceremony.
If their dominance in the classroom is anything like their golf games, the two should have no problem.